7 great races of all time that stayed too long

richard petty

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The word retirement is difficult for some people to pronounce. And that also applies to some of the best brokers.

Throughout recent history, there have been drivers who just didn’t know when to quit and stayed long after they were competitive. Seeing an all-time favorite or fan favorite become little more than a backmarker can sometimes be hard to watch for even his biggest fans.

In 2022, some are already wondering if some of the current all-time greats, including four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, should just call it a race. After all, no one wants to see these greats struggle to be competitive in the twilight of their careers.

We always want our athletes to always be at their best, at the top of their games. Unfortunately, that’s not the way sports work.

There are some athletes who do walk away from the inevitable decline. Nico Rosberg was right when he retired at 31, just five days after winning the 2016 Formula 1 championship. Jackie Stewart did the same, winning the 1973 F1 title at 34 and then getting out of the car. forever. Football legend John Elway won a Super Bowl and then retired at age 38 before playing another game.

There is nothing wrong with going up.

Here are seven drivers who stayed too long. The list includes one active driver who still has time to prove us wrong:

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Darrell Waltrip had one of the best 10-year streaks in NASCAR history, winning 57 races and three Cup championships in the 1980s.

DW won 84 races in an incredible Cup run that spanned 29 seasons, from 1972 to 2000.

However, fans who entered the NASCAR family after 1992 never got to see the real Darrell Waltrip. Although he started 809 races in his Cup career, he did not win in the 251 finals. In his last six years on the series, he finished no better than 19th in the final season standings.

Fortunately for NASCAR fans, Waltrip became a star in the television booth after his on-track career came to an end in 2000 at the age of 53.

Bobby Labonte won the 2000 NASCAR Cup Series championship and 21 Cup races in a career that spanned from 1991 to 2016. However, fans who just watched the second half of Labonte’s career missed something special.

Labonte finished his Cup career with a 373-race winless streak. His last six full seasons in the Cup, his best finish was 21st in points. Labonte retired at 52, but still shows up in a race car from time to time. He most recently drove in Tony Stewart’s SRX Short Track Series in 2021.

Trust us, in the past, Labonte was hard to beat.

Michael Schumacher won seven races and finished second in the Formula 1 championship for Ferrari in 2006 before retiring at the end of the season aged 37.

However, he returned three years later to race for Mercedes, and some say this legacy took a while. That second act did not work out as Schumacher hoped. In his three-year career with Mercedes, Schumacher achieved just one podium finish (third at Valencia in 2012). His average result was 10th during those three years.

The great Michael Schumacher, who won seven F1 championships and 91 races, was winless in his last 60 Formula 1 starts. That podium in Valencia was all he had to show for his three-year comeback.

Awesome Bill of Dawsonville, Ga., was exactly that, at least until 2003, when the 48-year-old earned his last NASCAR Cup Series victory in the Pop-Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at Rockingham.

Elliott, a 44-time winner and Cup Series champion in 1988, wasn’t done yet.

He went on to compete in parts of nine more seasons after that 2003 victory. However, he managed just one top-10 finish, no top-five finishes and no wins in the last 98 races of his illustrious Cup career.

Fernando Alonso had two Formula 1 titles at the age of 25 and had taken 32 wins before the age of 33.

Since then, however, it has been a different story.

In the first three races of 2022, Alonso, now 40, has scored 135 wins since his last F1 victory. While he won the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans during that period, he has only reached the F1 podium once since 2014.

His best finish in the F1 drivers’ standings since 2014 is 10th.

Younger Formula 1 fans, or those who started following the sport after 2013, are missing out on seeing the great Alonso at his best.

Kimi Raikkonen had the perfect opportunity to come out on top. The 2007 Formula 1 champion won one of his last races for Ferrari, at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas in 2018, and finished third in the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship that year.

Rather than walk off into the sunset, Raikkonen, 39, extended his F1 career with a further three years and 58 more races with Alfa Romeo. Raikkonen failed to get on the podium in those three seasons and finished 12th, 16th and 16th in the final points standings. Raikkonen, who has won 21 times, has not won in his last 61 starts.

Hardly a fitting end to a great career.

Even the King stayed a little too long. Thank God, he has never left the sport.

Petty, with 200 wins and seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, will go down in history as the greatest sport of all time. Unfortunately, he couldn’t add much to his legacy during his last eight years in a Cup car.

Petty, who retired from the Cup Series as a driver at age 55, was winless in his final eight seasons (1984 to 1992) covering 227 races. He only managed two top-10 finishes in his last four seasons.

Don’t worry, he’s still the King.

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